Janet sees a chance to climb socially when Susan invites her to a high-society fund-raiser; meanwhile, the men seem unable to keep up with their wives

‘Swingtown’ recap: Girl power

Who says TV isn’t educational? Thanks to last night’s Swingtown — and to Janet, who really unleashed her inner Martha Stewart this week — I now know that you can use saccharine crystals to rub Bloody Mary stains out of a white suit. Janet continued to blossom in this episode, which, as usual, was all about these remarkable women and the knuckle-dragging men who can hardly keep up with them.

As suggested by Laurie’s oral-philosophy final, the theme of this episode (titled ”Friends With Benefits”) was expression of the ”authentic self.” Susan’s inability to express that ”authentic self” was defined, once again, by an existential crisis over her living-room wallpaper. She couldn’t pick a new pattern because she didn’t know what she wanted; that is, she didn’t know herself. (Her husband didn’t know her either; asked if he could identify Susan’s authentic self, Bruce said, ”I have no idea what that is.”) Fortunately, she has all these new role models in her life. There’s the sexually open Trina and lawyer Sylvia, of course. This week, there was also philanthropist Rita, head of the Children’s Hospital Ladies’ Auxiliary (and spiller of Bloody Marys), and there was stock trader Melinda, who’d cannily figured out how to negotiate the macho obstacle course of Bruce’s firm. All these paths are opening up to her, and Bruce is still seeing her as arm candy, someone whose role is to help him advance in his career by sucking up to Rita (who’s his boss’ wife).

If Susan wasn’t sure that the Ladies’ Auxiliary was for her, Janet was thrilled to be accepted among the ladies who lunch (thanks to her take-charge attitude, quick thinking, and stain-fighting skills, all wielded in response to the Bloody Mary crisis). Visions of upward social mobility danced in Janet’s head. Not only did she buy a new dress and get a fancy new hairdo for the Children’s Hospital benefit (and she looked smashing, by the way), but she also persuaded Roger to ask for a raise. (She also bid a lot of money at the benefit’s auction for a luncheon at the country club that she imagined the Thompsons being invited to join someday.) Too bad that when Roger followed her advice, he ended up getting laid off instead. (Roger’s boss acknowledged that he was a top insurance salesman, one too expensive to be paid what he deserved in a time of recession and cutbacks.) Roger didn’t have the heart to tell Janet while she was having her Cinderella night at the benefit; at least Susan stepped in to rescue him by underwriting Janet’s auction purchase.

NEXT: The old-boyfriend dilemma

Trina, too, had to decide whether her authentic self was the Trina of her youth (represented by the sudden appearance in Chicago of Luke, her high school sweetheart) or the Trina of her present and future (represented by Tom). Like Luke, Trina apparently came from money, and Tom felt he couldn’t compete with the handsome, wealthy interloper who had been an intimate part of Trina’s life long before she met Tom. (Especially since Luke kept hanging around the Deckers’ house in his wet swim trunks.) Trina convinced Tom he didn’t need to be jealous, and in the end, she didn’t have to choose; she had them both, at the same time. (Cue this week’s most creative soundtrack choice: Bette Midler’s cover of ”Do You Want to Dance.”)

Even though she introduced the concept, Laurie had the most trouble expressing her authentic self, since she knew if she did so during her oral exam, she’d end up spilling the beans about her crush on her teacher. But as Mr. Stephens told her the moment that summer school was over, he’s no longer her teacher. And so, more making out to Bette Midler.

Questions: How long before Roger tells Janet he’s unemployed? How will she react when her country-club dreams are dashed? (And will she resent Susan for her charitable gesture?) Will Bruce be able to keep up with Susan’s evolution? (Even Melinda told him he doesn’t know much about women.) Why did Trina and Luke ever break up in the first place? With Trina entertaining old boyfriends at home while Tom is away having cocktails with stewardesses, how much longer can their open arrangement last? Did anyone else miss seeing Rick or Samantha this week? (And with B.J. and Rick shipped off to summer camp, does this mean we won’t be seeing any of the youngsters for a while?) Finally, was Janet’s declaration ”I always say you can never travel with too many ointments” the best line of the episode?

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